City at risk seeks security funds

The scenarios range from the unimaginably grim to the uncomfortably possible.

A 6.9 magnitude earthquake that could kill 6,000 people, damage 1 million buildings, and leave an economic impact of $100 billion.

An aerosol anthrax attack in downtown San Francisco that could expose 330,000 people, killing 99 percent of those who are untreated.

A 10-kiloton nuclear warhead dropped on a major city in the Bay Area, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and the evacuation of 500,000 people.

Each horrific outcome is being considered by local officials, according to Vicki Hennessey, acting executive director of the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, the agency in charge of overseeing The City’s emergency plans as well as the regional effort to secure and spend federal Homeland Security dollars earmarked for urban cities.

In May, the region submitted to the federal government its wish list of $112 million worth of emergency preparation needs — from personnel to equipment — and is expected to hear how much funding it received this summer.

“There is no way of truly knowing when a disaster could strike,” Hennessey said. “The potential is there for everything, which is why we have to be prepared for any possibility.”

The Department of Homeland Security listed the Bay Area as one of the seven regions in the country with the highest risk of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. The combination of the Bay Area’s numerous critical infrastructure sites, iconic landmarks, urban density and economic output make it a Tier I target, according to DHS officials.

The $112 million the region is requesting is part of the Urban Area Security Initiative grant, annually doled out to local governments since 2003 by the Department of Homeland Security. The grants are supposed to be used for measures to prepare and protect areas from terrorist threats, natural disaster or other unforeseen accidents. Sixty regions will qualify for the $781 million in UASI funds available this year, according to federal officials, but the lion’sshare will go to the seven areas most at risk.

Included in the Bay Area’s UASI grant proposal is $47 million to create an all-encompassing regional communication system, able to connect and coordinate various Bay Area towns and cities in the wake of a devastating terrorist attack or earthquake, according toHennessey.

An additional $12 million is sought to purchase rescue equipment resistant to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear outbreaks, according to Hennessey.

Hennessey conceded that the $112 million the region is requesting this year — nearly 15 percent of the $781 million total — is unlikely to be met by the federal government. Last year, the Bay Area was awarded $34 million, after requesting $96 million in funding.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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